August 17, 2012

Men's Soccer Season Preview Part II: Setting the Table

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UCSB men's soccer has a long tradition of assembling an outstanding midfield. Some of the most talented players that have come through the program – such as All-Americans Memo Arzate, Eric Avila, Ciaran O'Brien and Luis Silva – have manned the middle and four of the last five Big West Midfielders of the Year have been Gauchos.

Needless to say, the midfield is a linchpin for the team's success.

UCSB will benefit from the return of the core of its 2011 midfield, including seniors Josue Madueno, Nic Ryan and Machael David, who have each already played in at least 55 games for the Gauchos.

Madueno garnered All-Big West Honorable Mention honors last season after tallying four goals and two assists, including a goal and an assist in the NCAA First Round win over Providence.

Ryan, meanwhile, played in all but one game during the 2011 campaign and logged 1,378 minutes on the pitch for UCSB.

David, who was hampered by injuries last year, is poised to make a comeback and finish his collegiate career in strong fashion. The 2009 Big West Freshman of the Year is a two-time all-conference pick and played over 1,900 minutes in his first two seasons with the Gauchos.

Another veteran of the midfield that will return for the 2012 campaign is junior defensive midfielder Fifi Baiden, who emerged as one of the Gauchos' most reliable players last season. As a sophomore, Baiden started every game, logged 2,004 minutes on the field and posted a goal and three assists.

"Fifi allows us to be much more attack-minded because he is such a good two-way player," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said.

Even with a core of veterans returning, Vom Steeg and his staff still need someone to fill the critical role of playmaker for the Gauchos. Silva, who led the team in goals (17), assists (10) and points (44) in 2011, was crucial to the team's success and pulled many of the strings offensively.

Two players have been added to the roster to fill the gap left by Silva: freshman Ema Boateng and junior transfer Goffin Boyoko.

Boateng, who originally hails from Kumasi, Ghana, was a standout at Cate High School and was recently named the 2012 Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year.

"Ema obviously has been highly touted, he is explosive, exceptionally quick, and skillful," Vom Steeg said. "But what separates him from other players is the fact that he can absolutely crush a ball – with his left foot in particular – and as much as he is able to score, he can also distribute and beat players off of the dribble. So, he gives you that playmaking ability that is needed for us in the midfield."

Frenchman Goffin Boyoko comes to UCSB from Auburn Montgomery where he garnered NAIA First Team All-American honors.

"Goffin is such a smart soccer player, he understands the game very well and is very comfortable around the net," Vom Steeg said. "He adds that element to the field where other teams are going to have to account for him and know where he is, otherwise he is going to hurt them."

With the combination of tried and true veterans and new additions Boateng and Boyoko, Vom Steeg predicts big things from his 2012 midfield.

"I think out of that group, we will have another Big West Midfielder of the Year."

The UCSB men's soccer team will kick-off its 2012 campaign this Saturday, Aug. 18 with an exhibition against Westmont at 7 p.m. at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. Prior to the match, fans have the opportunity to visit with the 2012 Gauchos at the annual Meet the Team event. For more information on the event, click here. To RSVP, contact Christina Baglas at Christina.Baglas@athletics.ucsb.edu or at (805) 893-5372.

To ensure that you don't miss a minute of the 2012 campaign, purchase your season tickets now. The popular Family Plan includes five tickets for just $178. This year, the plan will also serve as a Flex Plan with either two season passes and three GKids memberships or five tickets – it's your call! GKids remains the best value in town for kids with access to every regular season game in every sport while wearing your GKids t-shirt. Call (805) 893-UCSB or click here to purchase your season tickets.

Part III of the UCSB men's soccer season preview, which will focus on the defenders, will be released on Friday. To read Part I on the offense, click here